2001-09-12 / Editorials

Shea It Isn’t So

by edward j. urbanowski

Shea Stadium has been a fixture in Flushing as long as I can remember. I can’t help but associate it with the 1964–’65 World’s Fair. Now only a few remnants of the fair remain, the magnificent Unisphere and those towers we saw in "Men In Black." Now various rumors suggest that Shea may be on its way out.

Shea isn’t the best or biggest stadium. The winds can be unkind and it could probably use more seating. However, why rush into anything? Do we want to repeat history the way we did with the original, stately, Penn Station? I know, Shea doesn’t compare favorably to the original Penn but it has something a new stadium would lack, memories. Two World Series, countless baseball memories and who can forget the famous Beatle concerts? (or was it a concert?) I like the look of the Shea replacement. It is reminiscent of Ebbets Field. I don’t like the fact it will seat 11,000 fewer people. One doesn’t need to be able to see the future to know the lost 11,000 spots will not be luxury boxes. They’ll be nosebleed seats that will deprive myself and countless other poor schleps of a place to plant our butts. That’s no improvement. A new stadium should have more seats. It should be able to accommodate football games, too. The Jets are looking for a New York home. Why not bring them back here, where they played until 1984? Shea has real character. It’s a nice landmark in western Queens. How can you not love its blue facade and neon signs? Shea is the third oldest National League stadium, behind structures in Los Angeles and Chicago. Shea has a comfort level like a pair of well-worn shoes. Do you just toss them out because a new pair comes along? What about parking and the impact on traffic? Getting in and out of Shea by car is rough now, will a new park ease the congestion? Should residents in this area be inconvenienced?

The mayoral candidates have been consistent in calling for study. They have also voiced distaste for the use of taxpayer money to finance a new stadium. Public opinion polls show most people don’t want taxpayer money spent this way. Maybe if we have shiny new schools and pothole-free streets we’d be more agreeable. Regardless, the Mayor (Rudolph Giuliani) plows on in his quest to finalize a deal on both Shea and Yankee stadiums before he leaves office in January. I have a suggestion. If taxpayers are to pay for the stadiums, why not give us free access? This is true with public parks, which are paid for with tax dollars. Why not with a stadium? The logic is the same. We’re paying for it and we should use it. If a team can float a payroll in excess of $90 million a year they should be able to provide a suitable venue for the team to play in. If they call in the public to finance their home, don’t they relinquish ownership of said home? Expecting the public to pay for a park they cannot use is ridiculous.

Before any decisions are made I suggest the owners of the Mets give careful consideration to their fans as well as to their neighbors in Queens. The demolishing of Shea should happen only after all relevant factors have been given careful consideration. As to who will pay for the park, there’s another topic calling for discussion at a later date.

Edward J. Urbanowski is an avid Mets fan and the Gazette’s film critic.

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